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Some Opium For the Masses - jordan179
March 2nd, 2016
05:55 am

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Some Opium For the Masses
I happen to be an atheist, in that I believe in no gods.  I am also an agnostic, in that I do not acknowledge proofs of any gods, since no valid proofs have been offered.

Having said that, hating "religion" lock, stock and barrel is the equivalent of hating humanity.

Why is that?  Because every effective Human culture in history which was not also casually-democidal has incorporated religion as a significant element.  The only truly atheist cultures of which I know were those of Communist-totalitarianism, which murdered 100 million of mostly their own people in the 20th century; and (to some extent) modern European democratic socialism, which is in the process of laying out its own population as lambs for the slaughter by Muslim invaders.

The closest thing to an atheist culture which has ever actually worked is the United States of America, and we are "atheist" on the Constutional level -- we forbid the establishment of religion by the Federal Government.  As America adopts the democratic-socialist model, we are sliding toward the same ineffectuality as the European Union has already attained.

This strongly implies that the impulse to religion is very strong in Humans, and that if religion is forbidden or discouraged, either Humans turn to worshipping men (Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao) or become rudderless and helpless in the face of fanaticism (the European Union).  Even if religious belief is objectively wrong, the Human need for religion is apparently overpowering.

Religion may be the opiate of the masses, but sometimes the medical condition of a patient indicates opiates as the best treatment of -- at least -- the symptoms.

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From:asher63
Date:March 2nd, 2016 02:02 pm (UTC)
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Excellent points.
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From:gothelittle
Date:March 2nd, 2016 02:09 pm (UTC)
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We are actually Christian on the fundamental level, rather than atheist. Only in a religion in which it is recognized that religious faith and practice cannot be forced can a people be comfortable with writing a Constitution that forbids the forcing of religious faith and practice.

Throughout history, any effort to force Christianity through politics has been extra-Biblical and often opposed by the majority of the Christian church of the time. Every time you clear back to fundamentals, you wind up in the same place. This is unlike Islam (for instance), which has as its *fundamentals* a strong political component which requires religious practice, if not faith.

We can see this in modern U.S. history, in which the increase in atheistic decisions made by the government is naturally resulting in a narrowing of religious (and non-religious) freedoms.

That said, I like your end conclusion about the use of opiates to treat a patient with certain medical conditions. :)
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From:jordan179
Date:March 2nd, 2016 02:13 pm (UTC)
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Well, yes. America is culturally Christian. So am I mostly, though I was raised Jewish.

America has mostly incorporated the better aspects of Christianity and Judaism into her culture, and shed the worse ones. Europe threw the baby out with the bathwater when she decided on democratic socialism; she lacks the moral self-confidence to condemn even the most obvious acts of aggression and criminality, and now her ordinary people are suffering for it.
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From:beesandbrews
Date:March 2nd, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC)
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Faith tends to be fluid over the course of a lifetime, ebbing and flowing depending on one's reaction to life. And there has always been atheists and agnostics. Sometimes a person can be all three over the course of their lifetime.

I think faith is one of the underpinnings of a healthy society. Without it, people tend towards cynism and cruelty. And considering that humans are a hard species anyway, we need an external moral compass to rein in our worse tendencies.

I think that's why people bend to the will of charismatic and ruthless leaders in the absence of other options.
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From:btripp
Date:March 2nd, 2016 03:10 pm (UTC)
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I have always wanted to found a new "church" that would have all the bells & whistles (music, architecture, incense, gravitas, etc.) of the religious churches, but wouldn't be based on fabrications. I figured a Solar/Earth/Stellar/Spirit axis would be a good basis. Frankly, I have always been attracted to the outlines of the Fosterite church from Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (and have wondered why Tim Zell chose to manifest the Church of All Worlds from that book instead) ... you can drink - as long as it's the Church's brands, you can gamble - as long as it's in the Church's casinos, you can go a-whoring - as long at it's in the Church's brothels ... and have SA-like shock troops to put down any uppity opposition.
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From:benschachar_77
Date:March 2nd, 2016 06:00 pm (UTC)
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"Even if religious belief is objectively wrong..."
Nothing funnier than a pro-evolution atheist who believes the usual tripe about homosexuality and transsexuality being perfectly normal and natural accusing others of being objectively wrong.
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From:jordan179
Date:March 3rd, 2016 04:48 am (UTC)
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Homosexuality is abnormal -- the majority of any human population is heterosexual. Transsexuality is extremely abnormal -- less than 1% of the population is even slightly transsexual. Your problem is that you are confusing "abnormal" with "insane" and "morally wrong."

As for "natural" -- well, yes. It occurs in nature, both in humans and other animals. "Natural" doesn't mean "normal" -- variations exist in nature.

I know the exact likely evolutionary reasons why homosexuality is not more vigorously selected against. I've probably explained them before as well. Your problem is that you're expecting "normal," "natural" and "moral" to correspond perfectly.
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From:luagha
Date:March 2nd, 2016 06:51 pm (UTC)
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Not just humans. There's a famous set of experiments where they basically torture rats - they put them in a cage where electric shocks will be administered at truly random intervals.

In answer, the rats develop 'ritual behaviors' - they don't know that there's no pattern but they desperately seek one, and so they devise non-normal-rat-like behaviors in a desperate attempt to stave off the harmful effects of a cruel, unfeeling universe.

Furthermore, if they are prevented from carrying out their rituals, they go into a panic attack.

I posit that the impulse to religion is not merely 'human'. That its analogues exist in other animals as much as they are capable, being at the very least also neural-network-based creatures.

Edited at 2016-03-02 06:52 pm (UTC)
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From:benschachar_77
Date:March 2nd, 2016 07:18 pm (UTC)
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"This strongly implies that the impulse to religion is very strong in Humans, and that if religion is forbidden or discouraged, either Humans turn to worshipping men (Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao) or become rudderless and helpless in the face of fanaticism (the European Union)."

I would add ideas, philosophies, and even science have or may be used to fulfill the religious void.
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From:jordan179
Date:March 3rd, 2016 07:14 pm (UTC)
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Of course. And when science is so used, that science tends to become less accurate (and hence useful) as science. And yes, Anthropogenic Global Warming advocates sometimes degenerate climatology into this.
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From:igorilla
Date:March 2nd, 2016 08:44 pm (UTC)
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Good !
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From:silent_o
Date:March 2nd, 2016 08:55 pm (UTC)
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What a post to return to LJ on.
-

I went through the anti-theist phase. Then I grew up and adopted a live and let live outlook.

Except when others would rather I not live. Like Islam.

Or when they use my sexuality to make blanket assumptions without even knowing me. I happen to support the right of business owners to turn away customers on religious grounds. Still think its stupid to turn away paying customers but its their business and their loss.
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From:jordan179
Date:March 3rd, 2016 07:19 pm (UTC)
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I'm generally not much into attacking religion for the sake of attacking religion. I am unlikely to convince theists to be atheists, nor make them happier or better people if I do so. Some of the very best people I have known in my life were devoutly religious.

My wife -- one of the best people I believe lives and breathes -- mostly believes in God. So do my in-laws. And I dearly love them.
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From:robby
Date:March 3rd, 2016 04:23 am (UTC)
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I think that in America of the 21st century, religion doesn't hold much sway. Television and anti-depressants might be the new opiates of the masses.
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From:mosinging1986
Date:March 3rd, 2016 05:02 am (UTC)
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I am too tired to address all the points. Just quick comments:

The closest thing to an atheist culture which has ever actually worked is the United States of America, and we are "atheist" on the Constutional level -- we forbid the establishment of religion by the Federal Government.

And where do you think that idea came from? From the Judeo Christian worldview, which holds 1) that human beings are created in God's image, therefore they merit respect and dignity and 2) they have free will and that should be respected, so long as they are not impeding the free will of others.


This strongly implies that the impulse to religion is very strong in Humans,

Which is one of the evidences at least pointing to the existence of God, which evidence you claim does not exist.


Religion may be the opiate of the masses, but sometimes the medical condition of a patient indicates opiates as the best treatment of -- at least -- the symptoms.

But only certain people need that opiate, I guess? Because... why? We're too stupid to control ourselves otherwise?

Today is my 30th spiritual birthday. I do not follow Christ as an "opiate". I follow Him because have found the claims of the Christian worldview to be factually true.

Otherwise, why would I bother? Why would ANYONE believe in, follow, dedicate their lives to ANYTHING, if it had zero facts to support it? That doesn't even make sense on a logical level.

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From:jordan179
Date:March 6th, 2016 04:55 pm (UTC)
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It is quite true that the concept of free will comes from (among other sources, because one finds it in some pre-Christian philosophies as well) Christianity. This does not mean that everything in Christianity must be true if free will is true. A large and complex philosophical system may be true in some respects, and still false in others.

This strongly implies that the impulse to religion is very strong in Humans,...

Which is one of the evidences at least pointing to the existence of God, which evidence you claim does not exist.


You are assuming that we only evolve impulses to believe that which is objectively true, or to do that which is objectively good for ourselves. Furthermore, you are assuming that this applies under all circumstances.

You want to have sex. A lot. You want to have sex a lot because you have evolved as a creature who is probably going to die by thirty if it has managed to live past adulthood, so you'd better breed fast to leave descendents. The long run is irrelevant past making sure that your child is cared for long enough to become a valued member of your hunter-gatherer band.

This impulse doesn't work as well in a complex and technologically advanced civilization where we generally live to 70+ years old and hence have to worry about our long-term futures, and high status requires elaborate education and the inculcation of deferring gratification, now does it?

Evolution produces "good enough" outcomes. Not necessarily ideal ones.

Religion may be the opiate of the masses, but sometimes the medical condition of a patient indicates opiates as the best treatment of -- at least -- the symptoms.

But only certain people need that opiate, I guess? Because... why? We're too stupid to control ourselves otherwise?


Because religion creates checks on Human behavior which may be irrational at the individual level but are highly-rational at the grand societal level. Sometimes. In the case of Christianity, we have a very well evolved memetic system that is highly-symbiotic, rather than parasitc upon, its host cultures.

In particular, Christianity helps as a vaccine against totalitarianism, since in Christian terms even the Emperor is bound by God's superior authority. This is why Tsarist Russia was a more humane society than Soviet Russia, for instance.

In the case of Islam, not so much. Unless one prefers rabid cultures, that is, that run around attacking other cultures, sometimes killing them and sometimes turning them rabid as well (see "Persia").

But even in the case of Christianity, some of the religious assumptions harm the hosts. Most notably, the notion of an imminent Apocalypse (so we don't need to worry about the long-term future, as the rules are about to change) and the idea that the Universe was made for Mankind and the Earth, hence both we and our planet are cosmically (rather than subjectively) special.

I could go into long detail about the damage we're doing ourselves and the opportunities we are missing because of those assumptions. Most significantly, we're degrading our global environment faster than it can recover (and no, I'm not talking in particular about AGW), and we're ignoring the opportunities of expansion to other worlds because, after all, the Earth and the Heavens are two separate sorts of thing.

Delusions are a poor guide to managing the future of a species.

Otherwise, why would I bother? Why would ANYONE believe in, follow, dedicate their lives to ANYTHING, if it had zero facts to support it? That doesn't even make sense on a logical level.

Because it makes you feel better. That's why we do a lot of things.

Look at the bright side. You could have caught Islam, and turned into a rabid monster; or some fringe-faith like Wicca, and just become a weirdo.

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From:eta_ta
Date:March 3rd, 2016 12:47 pm (UTC)
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you're channeling Voltaire:
There are truths which are not for all men, nor for all times.
and
If God did not exist he would have been invented
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From:jordan179
Date:March 6th, 2016 04:57 pm (UTC)
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Who says Voltaire was entirely wrong? The French Enlightenment was (very obviously) flawed. In particular, they failed to grasp that Humans can rationalize the commission of obvious evil, or that one must craft institutions to avoid their capture by the unscrupulous and power-mad. Hence, the French Revolution.

But that doesn't mean that they were wrong about everything, any more than Stephen Gould's socialism means that I ignore his theories of biology.
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From:graywolf44
Date:March 3rd, 2016 01:22 pm (UTC)
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"I happen to be an atheist, in that I believe in no gods. I am also an agnostic, in that I do not acknowledge proofs of any gods, since no valid proofs have been offered."

No valid proofs that there is no God have been offered, either. Just sayin'. :p
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From:jordan179
Date:March 3rd, 2016 02:56 pm (UTC)
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There are also no valid proofs that there is no Odin or Susano-O or Lady Elbereth. Should I be agnostic on them, too?
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From:baron_waste
Date:March 3rd, 2016 04:05 pm (UTC)
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Don't forget that Communism WAS a religion, as are its various offshoot -isms today, feminism, environmentalism, &c.  Form follows function.

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From:headnoises
Date:March 3rd, 2016 05:51 pm (UTC)
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I rather like the theory that communism is a Christian heresy; it takes the idea of charity and perverts it out of shape, with predictably bad results.
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From:headnoises
Date:March 3rd, 2016 05:50 pm (UTC)
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I heard a really good argument recently on the radioand tried to find it... can't... I believe it was a guy named Anders on EWTN radio, but booger if I can find it.

Basically, a big problem with talking about religion is defining terms; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is different in kind than, say, one of the Roman gods-- and not just because there are a bunch of them.
I was fascinated because the way it was laid out, I was playing with designing a story world that uses the word "kami" (via anime, not sourced directly to Shinto; it's a booger to find solid source material) rather than the awkward work-around of "small G gods."

The Kami are basically just people, but writ large-- Zeus acts like a hollywood star because that's basically what he is, a guy with butt-tons of power and a whole lot of folks under him that can't do anything to fight him.
In contrast, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is more like the essence of being. The great I Am, instead of being understandable as a person writ large, would be more understandable as a personification of science.

(Note, not even touching on how things got to being, because defining terms and standards of evidence etc is a pain in the rump and I ain't gettin' paid for this!)

I think you might have better luck saying that the American Constitution is as close to a truly agnostic functioning culture as can be found-- the basic assumptions are more along the lines of what use to be called Natural Law.
I'd call it scientific morality, but that phrase was already taken and means something horrible now.

TLDR:
pretty much what Gothelittle said, but from a different angle.
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From:ilion7
Date:March 4th, 2016 05:49 pm (UTC)

bullshit

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"... I am also an agnostic, in that I do not acknowledge proofs of any gods, since no valid proofs have been offered."

The truth is that you will not even examine the evidence for God.

Hell, you're so afraid of encountering even God's shadow that you *refused* to examine with me what, exactly, "an establishment of religion" means.
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From:justgin1978
Date:March 6th, 2016 03:41 pm (UTC)

Re: bullshit

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We all have blind spots. We are all biased in some way and to some degree. There are things we are afraid might be true if we dare to look more closely. As someone who now considers herself an uncomfortable agnostic, that thought comforts me and terrifies me at the same time. I recall a saying that goes something like this: Man's capacity to be deceived by others is eclipsed only by his capacity to deceive himself.

Ouch.

Thoughts?
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